Simon Wright

REVIEW: Dio – Magica (deluxe edition)

DIO – Magica (originally 2000, 2013 Niji deluxe edition)

Although Ronnie James Dio was a very vivid songwriter, he only made one true concept album.  Magica was intended as a trilogy, but only the first part was completed before Dio’s death in 2010.  Magica was released in 2000 as a story of aliens, heroes, villains and magic.  Dio’s new band consisted of returning champions Craig Goldy (from the Dream Evil album) on guitar, drummer Simon Wright (Lock Up the Wolves), and original bassist Jimmy Bain.  The album, co-written by Dio and Goldy, was considered a triumph in its time.  It is a strong return to old-style quality metal after 1996’s questionable Angry Machines CD.  This deluxe edition collects the album and all related tracks together in one place.

Without getting into too much story detail, “Discovery” introduces aliens that serve as a framing story.  Alien explorers have found the ancient planet of Blessing, but are confused by the written records they find.  “Flesh can NOT be mutated into stone, and re-morphed back to the body once again.  Continue the investigation with special attention given to one word:  MAGICA.”

“Lord of the Last Days” is a dramatic and metallic start.  Dio’s slow grooves bring the melody and power of the riff to the fore.  “I love the night, so many shadows,” he sings as the villain character Shadowcast.  A segue brings us to the single “Fever Dreams”, a song so good that it was performed live in 2001 by Deep Purple with Ronnie as guest.  Goldy’s choppy riff is the stuff of metal dreams.  Fans who thought Dio strayed too far from the old school before were very pleased.

The music speeds up and becomes more menacing on “Turn to Stone”.   Evil has made its move!   “Turn to Stone” is classic Dio music, very much in line with Dream Evil (1987).  Goldy turns in some killer solo work here, before we move on to the robotic “Feed My Head”.   The album loses momentum on the long “Eriel”, and the truth is that the story gets too hard to follow without reading along with the liner notes.

Some smoking soloing introduces “Challis”, a memorable rocker that brings the album back on track.  The songs work best when backed by good old riffs.  “Challis” is quintessential hard rock Dio, but Dio also has a tender side.  The album’s ballad “As Long as it’s Not About Love” is long but exemplary.  Then it’s a celtic sounding jig on “Losing My Insanity”, before it transforms into something heavier and almost Sabbathy.

The deluxe edition of Magica contains the original Japanese bonus track, an instrumental called “Annica”.  This is on CD 2, but for the most authentic listening experience, you should move it back to where it belongs, on the first disc between “Losing My Insanity” and “Otherworld”.  This guitar piece really shows off Craig Goldy’s style and tone. Then “Otherworld” is the climax of the story, good triumphing over evil, and a nice dramatically heavy track.

The alien framing story returns with a reprise of “Lord of the Last Days”, indicating that the tale is not over.  Far from it.

The final track on the original album has been moved to CD 2: Dio reading “The Magica Story”, also included inside as text.  This is 18 minutes of some of the dullest narration you’ve ever heard.  Finishing it once is a challenge, listening to it regularly as a part of the album is madness.  Instead, skip to “Electra”, the only song they finished for Magica 2 (or 3).  “Electra” was the last single that Dio released in his lifetime, as part of a box set called Tournado.  It sounds like a part of Magica, perhaps indicating the next album would have been darker.  It’s sad but gratifying to know that the last song Dio put out was a good one.*

Five rare live tracks round out the set, all songs from Magica never released on anything else.  Live, the band featured Alice Cooper bassist Chuck Garric in Jimmy Bain’s place.  “Fever Dreams” is particularly good, a little bit faster than the original.  “As Long as it’s Not About Love” has more passion in the live setting.  Most fans have not had the chance to hear live versions of the Magica songs before this package came out.

When Magica was originally released, I was lucky enough to get the Japanese version right away.  I was hoping for something more like old Dio, and less like Angry Machines.  Judging from my time in the Record Store, I think many Dio fans lost interest in the band after Angry Machines.  One of my old customers, Glen, was turned around by Magica.  I recommended it to him, and he loved it.  Now, I’m recommending it to you.

4.25/5 stars

 

* Former Dio guitarist Doug Aldrich recently stated that he is in possession of a complete demo with vocals of another Magica 2 song.  He has offered it to Wendy Dio to release.

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REVIEW: AC/DC – Who Made Who (1986 soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive)

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Today’s movie soundtrack comes by no coincidence.  Today’s my birthday!  And I got this album on this day in 1987 from my partner in crime for many years, Bob!

 


AC/DC – Who Made Who (1986 Epic soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive, 2003 remaster)

As a movie director, Stephen King is a great novelist.

30 years ago, Maximum Overdrive was King’s directorial debut.  The movies based on his books had been box office gold so far, but King always complained about the adaptations of his original material.  So why not hand the reins over to him?

King’s goal was to make “the loudest movie ever made”, and part of that was leaving the soundtrack to AC/DC.  King issued the film with instructions that “this film is to be played as loud as possible.”  The funny thing, according to him, was that most theaters did it.

AC/DC did the entire soundtrack, a mixture of old and new material.  It was an unorthodox move and it left AC/DC with what some consider to be their first real “greatest hits” album; this coming from a band who in 2016 has yet to issue an actual greatest hits album!

The robotic pulse of “Who Made Who” commences the affair, a massive hit still a radio staple today.  One of AC/DC’s most recognisable tunes, “Who Made Who” was a bigger smash than the movie that spawned it.  That’s Simon Wright on drums, emulating the perfect beats of Phil Rudd before him, creating a fine facsimile.  The keys to the song though are the simple and catchy guitars of Angus and Malcolm Young.  Having nailed down the art of writing catchy bases for songs, the brothers Young really perfected it here.

They also perfected it on 1980’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”.  Placing the biggest AC/DC hit of all time second in line is almost like nailing the coup de grâce prematurely, but there is plenty more firepower on the album.  It works in the second position, cleaning up anyone left standing and getting them shakin’ on the dance floor.

AC/DC added two brand new instrumentals to this soundtrack (“Johnson was sick that day”, joked Angus).  “D.T.” is the first of them, somewhat unremarkable and echoey on the drums.  But this is designed as background music for movie scenes, so it really shouldn’t be measured by the same yardstick as, say, a Rush instrumental.  The second on side two is the peppier “Chase the Ace”.  Punctuated with some cool Angus licks, “Chase the Ace” is simple and effective like “D.T.”.

There were a few tunes from the recent Fly on the Wall album, all killers.  “Sink the Pink” (oh, Brian!) is recorded so muddy that you can’t hear the words, but it does rock.  Angus’ guitar break is pure fun, and the song gets your ass moving.  That leads into the sole Bon Scott inclusion, “Ride On”, from a quieter moment in the film.  What’s really cool is that even though these songs are from all over the place, Who Made Who sounds like a fairly cohesive trip.

Side two commences ominously with “Hells Bells”, a fine way to distribute classic tunes evenly across the sides.  “Shake Your Foundations” is on its tail, hitting you with another blast of AC/DC right in the face.  One of the better tunes from Fly on the Wall, “Shake Your Foundations” does its advertised job.  Yet, I do believe there was only one way to properly end this album.  That would have to be the cannon-fire of “For Those About to Rock”.

Who Made Who was actually my first Johnson-era AC/DC album, given to me by my buddy Bob on this day in 1987.  If this review is slanted ever so slightly in the “pro” direction, so be it.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video (1988)

AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video (1988, 2003 Epic remaster)

By 1988, AC/DC had abandoned the bare-bones live-style music videos they had been doing for the last few years, and went into full-on productions.  That became AC/DC’s trademark style from that point forward: the band playing in front of an eager crowd, and crazy stuff going on around them. Explosions, lights, wrecking balls or what have you — this all became part of the AC/DC music video experience, with Angus stomping around front and center. “Who Made Who” was really the first of the big AC/DC videos of this style. “Heatseeker” continued the tradition, with Angus popping out of a missile!

“Heatseeker” was an explosive first single, but unexpectedly, it was not really representative of Blow Up Your Video as an album.  The highschool halls were filled with mutterings that the new AC/DC was “not as good” as past AC/DC, and that was troubling.  Blow Up Your Video proved to be a transitional album, as many changes were afoot for AC/DC.

Malcolm Young had hit rock bottom, in the depths of a drinking problem that was starting to take its toll on the band on the concert stage.  He was unable to tour.  Angus and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young stepped up, and helped the boys out on tour.  (Nobody would ever imagine that Stevie would have to do it permanently in 2014 when Malcolm withdrew from the band due to dementia.)  Drummer Simon Wright wouldn’t last either.  After the tour, he left to join Dio.  It was also the last album to which Brian Johnson wrote any lyrics.

On the other hand, the chemistry with producers Harry Vanda and George Young (an older brother) had never been better.  They helmed the classic AC/DC albums with Bon Scott, as well as three more recent songs on 1986’s Who Made Who.  It was thought that they would bring that old time rock and roll slant back to AC/DC, so they were retained for Blow Up Your Video.

“Heatseeker”, being so upbeat and catchy with just a hint of a jangle in the guitars, was certainly promising.  Like a one-two punch, the second single “That’s the Way I Wanna Rock N Roll” is next.  The production holds it back, lacking punch (especially on the drums), but it’s a killer AC/DC good time rock and roller.  Weak sonics aside, few AC/DC albums begin with two big winners like this right from the get-go.

Things get funky from there.  “Meanstreak” does have a bit of funk to it, but suffers again from a muddy sound and too much echo on the vocals and drums.  The further one delves into Blow Up Your Video, it seems like the songs aren’t so bad, just the sound.  Same with “Go Zone”.  There’s nothing wrong with the tune, but it seems to drag and fumble in a muddy puddle with the tires spinning.  The side one closer “Kissin’ Dynamite” has a smoky prowling guitar and so sounds more at home.  At least the side is salvaged by this last tune.

Since AC/DC offloaded their two singles right off the bat on side one, the second side is a much more turgid affair.  “Nick of Time” has a blasts of guitars exactly where you want them, but lacks hooks.  “Some Sin For Nuthin'” is better, because it’s back to that menacing dusky prowl that AC/DC do so well.  Finally, AC/DC hit all the buttons with “Ruff Stuff”, a mid-tempo rocker with an actual chorus and verses that you can remember!  “Two’s Up” is of similar quality, another decent album rocker good enough for rock and roll.

Finally, “This Means War” ends the album on a frantic, unfocused note.  It has the energy and fire lacking on earlier songs, but has nothing else.  Simon Wright is perfectly behind the beat, and Angus’ fingers sure are flying…but is that enough?  For AC/DC, it is not.

The album sold a measly million copies in the US  and failed to crack the top ten.  Needing to do better, Bruce Fairbairn was called upon when needed for The Razors Edge.  Since then, Blow Up Your Video has remained under its large, looming shadow, and for good reason.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (bootleg)

Scan_20150818AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (Flight records bootleg CD, year unknown)

Rare…Rarer…Rarities, huh?  Indeed, this is a bootleg CD that includes rarities that most fans don’t have on an official release.  The pretty comprehensive Backtracks box set, which came out later, covers most of these songs…but not all.

Most of these tracks are either single B-sides or songs that were exclusively released on the Australian versions of albums.  Until Backtracks came out, those songs were very hard to find in North America.  The only one I had was “Rock in Peace”, from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.  I couldn’t believe my luck in scoring the Australian CD of that album.

There are, however, two songs that none of us are likely to ever own an original physical copy of.  These two tracks alone make the bootleg CD purchase worth considering, since they are AC/DC’s first single from 1974, featuring original singer Dave Evans.  Most fans have never heard anything with Dave Evans singing.  These are ripped from an original 7″ single.

“Can I Sit Next to You Girl” is a song every AC/DC fan knows, because this golden oldie was re-recorded on T.N.T. (1975).  Bon Scott’s cheeky delivery made all the difference in the world.  Dave Evans is just some guy, asking to sit next to you.  Bon was Bon fucking Scott asking to sit next to you…who do you think gets the girl?  This early single was issued in the summer of ’74, and it has a completely different, much more laid back intro.  It’s not nearly as heavy as it would later become.  Evans does have a fine vibrato, I must say!

Every single has a B-side, and “Rockin’ in the Parlour” was AC/DC’s first.  It’s much more “rock and roll” than you expect from AC/DC, but it’s catchy and melodic.  Angus and Malcolm have yet to fully develop their styles, but you can certainly tell its them.  You can hear for yourself, that Dave Evans was not the lyricist that Bon Scott was.  “She said, ‘I got some booze, around at my place, so come along and have some fun!'”  Sorry Dave, but that just won’t cut it when the band is AC fucking DC.

The rest of these songs are all in print today, so they can be acquired on official AC/DC releases.  “Love Song” (High Voltage) shocked me on the first number of listens.  Is this AC/DC’s one and only ballad?  I guess so!  “Oh Jean, Oh Jean!” sings Bon, seemingly heart broken.  Once you get used to it, and accept the fact that there are no other AC/DC songs that sound anything like it, you might enjoy it.  I know that I do, from time to time.

I’m not sure what makes “She’s Got Balls” and “Little Lover” qualify as rarities.  As far as I can tell these are the album versions.  Next!  “Stick Around” (High Voltage) is a cool tune, a laid-back AC/DC rocker with lots of space between the instruments.  You can hear the air sizzle!  The riff is about as simple as it gets: two chords.  But they are the right chords!  “High Voltage” is slightly longer than the album version, and this is also on Backtracks.

“School Days” is a Chuck Berry cover, one of very few covers AC/DC recorded.  Chuck Berry is the prototype of AC/DC anyway, so this version fits like a glove.  Hail hail rock and roll, indeed!  This was originally on T.N.T., but you can get it on the Bonfire box set too.  The aforementioned “Rock in Peace” is a shorty, heavy with that AC/DC stomp and the same damn riff they’ve been playing for 40 years.

AC/DC have always had tongue firmly in cheek, but “Crabsody in Blue” is probably the jokiest song they ever recorded.  A slow blues similar to “Ride On” deserves to have some down-and-out lyrics. Bon takes that to a descriptive extreme!

“Oh, and when they start to bite,
Then it’s time you saw the light,
For an appointment.
Before you start to scream,
That’s when you apply the cream,
Blues ointment.”

Only Bon Scott can really write a lyric about venereal disease. Nobody else seems quite as qualified.

“Carry Me Home” was the heavy and instantly likeable B-side to “Dog Eat Dog” (1977).  Using his speaking voice to full effect, Bon proves to me why he is one of rock’s all time greatest frontman.  His animated vocal performance here is something that very few singers can pull off.  (Ian Gillan is one such singer — think “No Laughing in Heaven”.)  Then, “Down on the Borderline” is Brian Johnson’s only showing on this CD.   This was the B-side from “Moneytalks” (The Razors Edge), but it sounds little like that album.  Sonically and vocally, it resembles Blow Up Your Video, right down to the muddy finish.  I have no doubt it was recorded for that album.

“Fling Thing” is AC/DC’s take on “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, which they cheekily credited to Young/Young! It sounds like quite a party was going on during the recording, which falls apart after a mere two minutes! This was originally the B-side to “Jailbreak”. The final song is “Cold Hearted Man”, which was recently dusted off for the Iron Man 2 soundtrack album.  It was on Powerage (1978) first, and a dark prowler it is.

A lot of people like to joke that all of AC/DC’s songs sound the exactly the same.  This CD of also-ran’s has proven otherwise, and “Cold Hearted Man” is a perfect closer for a solid collection of rock.

3.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life (Tribute)

NEW RELEASE

“I’m letting them pick what songs they wanna do in the way they wanna do it.” Wendy Dio

THIS IS YOUR LIFE_0001VARIOUS ARTISTS:  Ronnie James Dio – THIS IS YOUR LIFE (2014 tribute CD)

No preable from me: we all know how great Dio was.  Let’s get to the tracks.

Anthrax kick off the festivities with a slamming “Neon Nights”.  The storming opener couldn’t have been in a better slot.  Not only is Charlie Benate heavy as shit, but the guitar solos are mental.  Joe Belladonna handles the powerful vocal ably.  Rob Caggiano is still in the lineup indicating this isn’t brand new.  I suspect it was recorded at the same time as last year’s Anthems EP.

The guys that never get respect, Tenacious D, tackle the difficult second slot.  No worries there; they chose “The Last In Line” which Jack Black sings with no difficulty.  Uncle Meat has said it before:  Jack Black is one of the best singers he’s seen live.  “The Last In Line” proves his pipes, although some may not like his exaggerated, humorous vocal enunciation.  Kyle Gass plays a cute recorder solo in lieu of guitar, but there’s not enough K.G. on this track.  Brooks Wackerman kicks the drums in the ass.

And speaking of drums, Mike Portnoy is next with Adrenaline  Mob.  They demolish “Mob Rules”, although singer Russell Allen is certainly no Dio.  He is completely overshadowed by Portnoy and the shredding of Mike Orlando.

Corey Taylor, Satchel (Russ Parish) and friends  chose “Rainbow In the Dark” as their tribute to Ronnie.  This has always been such a fan favourite, and a personal one as well.  It is difficult to imagine anyone but Ronnie singing it.  While Corey Taylor is not at all like Ronnie James Dio, you can tell he loves this song.  It bleeds out of his performance.  He does it in his own rasp, and it works.

The incredible Lzzy Hale and Halestorm are up next with another Dio classic, “Straight Through the Heart”.  There is no denying the talents of Lzzy Hale, but her powerful pipes are almost too much.  Perhaps she overpowers the song, rather than simply fueling it.  Halestorm fans will love it, but I think Lzzy maybe should have reeled it in a bit.  Or, maybe I just need to get used to it.  “Straight From the Heart” does sound better after a few listens.

Biff Byford (Saxon) joins Motorhead on lead vocals for Rainbow’s “Starstruck”.  There’s a bit of that Motor-slam in it, but if I didn’t know who it was, I never would have guessed Motorhead.  You can hear Lemmy on backing vocals, but weirdly, he’s not credited on bass.  Nobody is, but you can hear the bass clearly and it sounds like Lem.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE_0004

I’m a little sick of the Scorpions doing ballads, but I admit that “Temple of the King” (another Rainbow classic) is stunningly good.  One might almost mistake it for a Scorpions original.  It has that regal Scorpions bombast to is, but Matthias Jabs’ lead work is just sublime.  He’s an underrated player, absolutely.  You can tell he’s a Blackmore fan.

An oldie from 1999, Doro’s cover of “Egypt (The Chains are On)” is excellent.  It’s cool to hear female singers like Doro and Lzzy Hale sing Dio.  Doro’s impressive pipes have always been astounding.  Her version of “Egypt” is a little over the top compared to Dio’s, but that’s cool by me.

Killswitch Engage…hmm.  “Holy Diver” starts great, super heavy, with some perfectly acceptable, melodic vocals.  Then it all goes down the toilet at the bridge.  That’s when it turns into hardcore shouting and blast beats…sorry, not on this song, thanks.  I can listen to that stuff in moderation, but don’t sully “Holy Diver” with it.  Fortunately the guitar solos are great, sounding like an Iron Maiden outtake from Powerslave.  Shame about the growling and shouting.  Skip.

“Catch the Rainbow” is a great song, and Craig Goldy plays guitar on this cover.  He’s ex-Dio himself, and he’s backed by his former Dio-mates Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren and Simon Wright.  (Hey, that’s also 1/3 of Tateryche!)  Glenn Hughes sings, but this song sounds out of his scope.  His bluesy slant doesn’t work for me.  Sorry Glenn, you’re still awesome!

I find it strange that two more ex-Dio members (Jimmy Bain and Rowan Robertson) chose to cover Black Sabbath.  But who cares!  They covered “I”, perhaps the greatest song from Dehumanizer (1992)!  On drums is Brian Tichy, with Oni Logan (Lynch Mob, Dio Disciples) singing.  It’s a perfectly authentic version and I love it.  It’s absolutely thunderous, and I love Jimmy Bain’s bass sound.  Always have.  Of all the vocalists on This Is Your Life, it is Oni Logan that comes closest to nailing Dio’s vibe.  Considering he’s in Dio Diciples, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I didn’t expect it though, based on what I knew of Logan from Lynch Mob.  He fits “I” like a glove!

I was disappointed in Rob Halford’s version of “Man On the Silver Mountain”.  It’s true that Halford did replace Dio in Black Sabbath for two shows in 1992.  However, having owned a bootleg video of that show since that time, I knew that Halford’s and Dio’s styles didn’t really mesh.  This is no different; I don’t think his voice works with the song and it unfortunately shows off the places where Rob’s voice has weakened.  What is cool though is that the band (all ex-Dio:  Doug Aldrich, Vinnie Appice, Jeff Pilson and Scott Warren) take it to a swampy bluesy Whitesnake-y place for the intro.  You can definitely hear Pilson covering the high notes in the chorus.

Finally we arrive at the mighty Metallica.  Snicker if you like.  If Metallica do one thing really well, it’s covers.  If they do two right, it’s covers and medleys.  The “Ronnie Rising Medley” is entirely made up of parts of Rainbow songs.  “A Light In the Black” bleeds into “Tarot Woman,” where the vocals begin.  It’s safe to say if you don’t like Metallica, you won’t like this.  If the opposite is true, I think you’re in for a treat.  Metallica do these classics in their own style, just as they have in the past when covering Maiden, or Mercyful Fate, or Thin Lizzy.  Simply add Lars’ thuds, James’ growl, and some standard Metalli-licks, and you’ve got a medley that is enjoyable through its near-10 minute run time.  Having said that, the weak point is definitely “Stargazer”, which is gutted of all its majesty.  They do much better with “Kill the King” which is fucking perfect.  They include the entire song in their medley!

Fittingly, the album ends on a ballad:  Dio’s own somber “This Is Your Life”, performed by the man himself in 1996.  I did not like the Angry Machines album, but if there was one song I would have picked as a highlight it would be “This Is Your Life”.  Performed only by Dio and Scott Warren on piano, it is unlike anything else in Dio’s canon.  The lyrics speak of mortality:

This is your life
This is your time
What if the flame
Won’t last forever?

This is your here
This is your now
Let it be magical

What a way to end a great album.  As much as you can “miss” a person you have never met, I do miss Ronnie James Dio.  In many ways he’s been my friend for 30 years.

4.5/5 stars

As a nice added touch, the liner notes include photos of just about every performer on this CD with Ronnie!

Of  note:  the Japanese edition has a bonus track by Dio Diciples:  “Stand Up and Shout.”  It also has Stryper’s version of “Heaven and Hell” from their 2011 album The Covering, which I reviewed here.

REVIEW: Dio – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

DIO – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

July 1990: A M.E.A.T. Magazine interview (issue #14) with Ronnie James Dio states that he was unhappy with Dream Evil, one of my favourite Dio albums. He felt the songwriting was unfinished, that the songs needed tightening up. Supposedly some of the changes he made were a response to that. If that’s indeed the case, then Lock of the Wolves came as a total shock. These songs feel even less finished than any Dio album before.

Dio had completely revamped his band. Craig Goldy (guitar) was the first one to leave. Apparently Vinnie Appice, Jimmy Bain and Claude Schnell didn’t care for Goldie, but they all ended up departing too. Ronnie was no longer happy with the writing process nor the dischord that had set into the making of Dream Evil.  Because of these circumstances he was able to revamp the entire Dio lineup but not by choice.

Ronnie took on a young and international crew: Swedish Jens Johansson on keyboards (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), new York kid Teddy Cook on bass, ex-AC/DC skin-pounder Simon Wright, and the young 17 year old Scot, Rowan Robertson as his new guitar wizard. Robertson won the role after a cattle-call resulted in 5000 tapes sent to Dio for his consideration.  The end combination was a band of skilled players, but lacking in road-tested chemistry. Plus the pressure was certainly on Robertson, having guitarists like Vivian Campbell and Richie Blackmore writing the solos you were going to be playing.

About half the album was written when Bain and Appice were still in the band, and they appear on several writing credits. Robertson has a co-write on every song, and Jens Johansson has two, while new bassist Cook has one. Regardless of the numerous writers, the album is very singular in its direction. That is to say Lock Up the Wolves is a painfully sloooowww Dio album.

I was very disappointed that there are only a couple fast rockers to keep the blood pumping. The first track, “Wild One”, fools you into thinking this album will be a rocking good time full of tasty guitar hooks and wicked Dio lyrics. However, “Born On The Sun”, while boasting a great chorus melody, sags and droops. “Hey Angel” and “Between Two Hearts” are more of the same. I kept waiting for another fast song, or just something different to keep me awake. I had realized that Lock Up the Wolves is loaded with boring pseudo-bluesy riffs, slow to the point of coma-inducing.

The only slow tunes that really have spark of any kind are the monstrous title track (over 8 minutes of drama) and the ballady “My Eyes”. “My Eyes” is my personal favourite track on the album, and perhaps worth the price of purchase if you can find the album cheap. It’s also fun to play the game “How many of Dio’s other song titles are in the lyrics?” with this one.  The CD-only bonus track “Why Are They Watching Me” is the only other serious fast rocker on the album, and I have no idea why it was the CD-only bonus track, because the album desperately needed a kick in the pants.

And that is Lock Up the Wolves in a nutshell. Approximately 50 minutes of slow, pseudo-bluesy guitar and dull rhythms. About 10 minutes of heavy metal. That’s it.

I do love the cover art.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Geoff Tate’s Queensryche – “Cold” (2013 single)

Geoff Tate’s QUEENSRYCHE – “Cold” (2013 single)

Oh, how I wanted to hate this.

I don’t hate it.  It has a catchy riff, a good vocal from Geoff Tate, a shredding guitar solo, and it’s not about spitting on people or knives. It sounds modern while still featuring a guitar riff or two.  I don’t hate it like I hated, say, Tribe.  I’m disappointed that it’s a little faceless and generic sounding.

The problem is that it doesn’t sound like Queensryche.  It sounds like a Geoff Tate solo track.  Probably the best Geoff Tate solo track that there’s been so far.  But just a Geoff Tate solo track.

The blockheaded drums do not sound like the textured complexity of Queensryche.  (Sounds like Simon Wright though.)

The piano is distracting, I kept thinking a phone was ringing somewhere in my house.  It sounds like, “Hey, we have a keyboard player in our band.”

I love the guitar solo.  It’s so tasty and good.  Who is this?  Kelly?  Robert?  Neither?  What will this sound like when performed live without guest stars?

I don’t know if the mix is worth the brew-ha-ha that’s being made of it.  It’s not to my taste personally but it sounds like they had a vision of a heavier than fuck sound and just kind of overdid it.

This track confirms that Tate is still capable of writing good music.  It does not confirm that Tate still is capable of writing good Queensryche music.  This is his Chinese Democracy.  It has a vibe of, “Let’s saturate the song with everything from the biggest sounding drums to the fastest solo to a guy playing piano.”  Let’s try anything.

Where the real Queensryche’s song, “Redemption”, sounded unmistakably like Queensryche, Tate’s reeks of contrivances.    In the Battle of the Ryches, Round One, the original band comes out on top.  Tateryche will have their supporters, but it is clear now that Queensryche is a band sound, not merely a singer.

2.5/5 stars

More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV

TATERYCHE